How not to honor St. Patrick this SundayPublished 8:29am Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Tom Purcell’s new book, “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!”
Column: Mr. No Name, by Tom Purcell
Ah, St. Patrick’s Day is upon us.
That means but one thing: time for Americans to over-celebrate the Irish tradition.
I speak of the goofy Leprechaun hats, the gaudy green buttons and scarves and the propensity to drink excessive amounts of alcohol at fake Irish pubs while trying to be authentically Irish.
Though I’m not entirely without guilt.
Eight years ago in a gentrified section of Washington, D.C., I visited a fake Irish pub a few weeks before St. Patrick’s Day. My group included my cousin, my friends Bergen, Bell and Reid, and a woman we’d just met who bore a striking resemblance to Paula Jones (of the Clinton-era scandals).
Our efforts at pretending to be authentically Irish were going well until Bergen ordered up a fresh round of Guinness. That’s when the disaster occurred.
“Paula Jones” was wearing a white sweater — her favorite white sweater, which she’d paid $80 for at bebe’s in Chicago. Bergen, in his eagerness to get at his Guinness, knocked a full pint of the oil-black brew onto what quickly become a chocolate-white sweater from bebe’s in Chicago.
Having five sisters, I knew we had to get that sweater soaking in something or it would never see whiteness again. Bell ran off to get a bucket. I got the manager to supply a free Leprechaun T-shirt so our guest could change. My cousin trembled visibly, while Bergen was clearly saddened by the loss of his full pint.
Just as we managed to get our female guest dry, get her chocolate-white sweater soaking in soda water — we set it on a table behind us — and continue to pretend we were authentically Irish, all heck broke loose again.
Drug dealers, who had been openly plying their trade across the street — we watched them through the window — were suddenly the target of police, whose cars came roaring down the street from every direction.
So curious were we about this scene, we forgot about the sweater. Thus, we failed to notice that the busboy had picked up the bucket in which the sweater was soaking and proceeded to fill it with dirty glasses, silverware, greasy napkins, etc.
Thankfully, my cousin saw him and began shouting. This headed off the busboy’s subsequent actions, which would have involved the swabbing of dirty tables with an $80 chocolate-white sweater from bebe’s in Chicago.
There was no time to savor our success, however, as another crisis was under way. Our female guest was suddenly overcome by itchiness, an affliction, apparently, that results when Guinness dries on the skin. (Sunburn she’d received during a recent vacation had also contributed to her malady.)
So loudly did she complain — she had passed through “denial” and was well on her way to “anger” — that our efforts at pretending we were authentically Irish were in jeopardy yet again.
I quickly began searching the pub for mayonnaise, which, I’d thought, would remedy her itching. I didn’t realize until afterward that my reasoning had been muddled by an abundance of Guinness and my hopes of rubbing mayonnaise all over her skin had more to do with my needs than hers.
It was about then that the cook came running out of the kitchen, shouting about shots being fired in the alley. Our group had had enough. We rose in unison, grabbed our sweater bucket, hailed a cab and got the heck out of there.
The Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a more dignified manner than Americans do. Most people go to Mass, take in a parade, then enjoy the rest of the day with family — they don’t get out of hand the way we do.
It is true that one out of four Americans can trace his heritage back to the rolling green hills of Ireland, but do we have to mock our fine heritage by wearing gaudy hats and scarves, getting rip-roaring drunk and singing supposed Irish tunes, such as “The Unicorn Song”?
“The Unicorn Song” illustrates my point perfectly. It was written by Shel Silverstein. He was Jewish.
Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist.